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This blog is all about fly fishing for native trout. On it I cover trip reports, fishing tactics, conservation, the latest news about native trout species and much more. This site provides a companion to my web page Nativetroutflyfishing.com.


Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Rainy season Chum Salmon

After my outing with Steve in August, I learned that he still had yet to catch two species of Pacific salmon: Chum and Coho. When I mentioned to him that both of these species can usually be found in good numbers during the fall in Washington, he started planning another trip and as it turned out both of our schedules lined up at the end of October. However, as we got closer to the trip, one complication arose - the weather.

While most years early fall is actually a pretty nice time of the year in western Washington, this year is a La NiƱa year. Meaning wetter than normal weather and has it ever been wet, with more than double the normal rain during October. This meant that when Steve arrived, pretty much every river was nearing flood stage and as such our only option was to try our luck in the saltwater.

This however, was also going to be a long shot as we were just coming off a major rain and most salmon will pass right through the estuaries and into the rivers following a good rain and it usually takes several days for them to stack up again. Despite this, we were good to put in our best shot at finding some fish. Our first spot that we checked out was the mouth of a small stream that has a modest Chum run, but will often draw in large numbers Chum Salmon sniffing for their natal waters as they head deeper into Puget Sound. I have had excellent success at this spot in the past during the same time of year, but have also found in vacant of Chum on other occasions.  Unfortunately this time it was the latter situation, as there were some post spawn Chum in the creek, but we only saw a couple roll in the estuary during the two hours that we tried our luck.

First spot of the day - no fish...

For me this spot was a bit of a litmus test for the day and as there were almost no salmon there, I knew that we were going to have a hard time finding any fish. Luckily for Steve, there was on sure-fire spot in front of a local hatchery that we could try, but would would have to put up with some crowds to do so. Being that it was a weekday, luckily the crowds were not as bad as they could be and given the number of Chum trying to get back, the hatchery trap was closed, meaning that there was quite the captive audience of Chum waiting for us. By crossing the creek mouth, we were able to get away from the crowds a bit, but with the tide rising so we would only have an hour or two before we had to relocate. I started out with chartreuse comet, while Steve was using a spinning rod with an orange vibrax spinner. With the Chum held up in front of us, it didn't take long for us to tie into some fish and I started things off by bringing a decent hen to hand after just a few of casts. Steve had several fish on that popped off, but finally got a solid connection and after a few minutes brought a bright female chum to shore as well, checking another species off his list.

Steve's first Chum Salmon

After Steve's fish, we noted that the tide was coming up faster than we anticipated and we knew that we were running short on time. However we figured we had a few cast left, and before long I managed to hook into another, slightly larger Chum. After several good runs and a bit of tug of war I was able to bring this one to hand as well. I turned out to be a decent buck this time, but with that fish it was time for us to get across the creek and head to another beach.

My buck Chum

As we had checked the Chum off we decided that we would grab lunch, then head for a beach that had a reasonable chance of having some Coho around. We gave this beach a couple of hours, during which we had a handful of Chum swim by, but had no grabs and saw no Coho jumpers and as things didn't show any sign of improving we decided to move on.

Beach #3 - no fish...

Since it didn't seem likely that we would find any adult Coho in the saltwater still, I figured our best bet might be to look for some smaller resident Coho and possibly some sea-run Cutthroat. However, at this point the tide was really up, which made things challenging. We ended up trying two more spots but still saw now sign of fish and as our daylight was starting to fail we opted to call it a day, having at least gone 1 for 2. Hopefully we can get a Coho for Steve next time. 

Unfortunately, a side affect of this trip and doing too many of double haul casts, was that I woke up the next day with a serious kink in my shoulder that refused to go away. After after putting up with it for a couple weeks a I learned that I either sprained or tore a muscle in my rotator cuff on my left side so there won't be any fishing for me any time soon (at least it is the off season...).

While I may not be able to go fishing, I have still at least been able to get out fish watching a couple of times at a local creek. The Chum runs to this creek are among the best in years and it has been a fun place to enjoy watching these fish and just to be in the great outdoors with my family.

The local Chum creek
Chum Salmon on a spawning flat

A Chum Salmon spawning pair